Whenever the subject of random drug testing comes up, as it currently is among officials, administrators and coaches in the Illinois High School Association, I am reminded of a small bottle of tiny green pills that has been stored in my desk drawer for about 20 years.
The pills are Fluoxymesterone, an androgenic steroid "that is only useful to a small select group of athletes who seeks very specific goals. Athletes tend to use it to increase strength and aggression in the gym or in competition."
The bottle was mailed to me while I was researching a story about what was being perceived at the time as an increased use of drugs and steroids in high school sports, particularly football. Someone had discovered them being distributed at a suburban gym where young athletes were trying to increase their strength and muscle mass.
Well, 20 years later, nearly everyone who has anything to do with high school sports agrees that drugs and steroids are more prevelant than ever before and the issue must be addressed. And the IHSA, following the lead of New Jersey, Florida, Texas and California, is looking to adopt a system of random drug testing within a year or two.
"We need to find a way to get it done," said Marty Hickman, executive director of the IHSA. "It is a community health issue. In today's climate, it is something that would be good for our association. It sends a good message. Research says 6 percent of our kids have been involved with drugs. That's a scary number. There are far more positives than negatives in testing."
In pursuit of that end, the IHSA's sports medicine advisory committee has presented its drug testing proposal to the IHSA's board of directors. It would randomly test student-athletes who participate in IHSA athletic state-series competitions. The issue will be discussed at town meetings throughout the state this fall and will be voted upon in early 2008.
"We are close. It is one of the issues we have to address up or down this year," Hickman said. "I think the board of directors is on board. We want more feedback in the town meetings. Personally, I think it would be a good thing for us to get involved in. It was well received in New Jersey. It gives parents and kids a certain level of confidence that somebody is looking out for them and trying to establish a level playing field."